Marketing is how you communicate to people what your game is about. Naturally, this means “spoiling” some of the meat of the game.
But how much is too much spoiling? How do you know what will hook the player and how much is too much information?
Today I want to look at why spoiling some of your game is a good thing and how to avoid spoiling too much.
No summary is going to completely tell you what something is about. There is always going to be some plot detail, some character reveal, some story twist that is left out. So what do you include?
What is important to your story?
For a mystery, the player should have an inkling on what is there to solve. For a romance, the player should have an idea of who is romanceable.
The “spoiler” pieces should be pieces that:
- Intrigue players
- Solidify what genres it is
To give an example of this, I’ll use my latest visual novel, Crimson Waves on the Emerald Sea.
This summary makes the story sound slice of life, sorta Kino’s Journey-esque. It makes it sound like the focus is on the journey.
At the turn of the century, Victorian life carries on with one sharp difference from our world- vampires run amok and are a part of every day life. After having run away from home to search for his best friend, the young Cecil meets Nemo, a pickpocketing vagabond. The two set out together in order to find what they’re looking for.
However, let’s look at the real summary for the game. The bolded section is what was changed.
At the turn of the century, Victorian life carries on with one sharp difference from our world- vampires run amok and are a part of every day life. After having run away from home to search for his best friend, the young Cecil meets Nemo, a pickpocketing vagabond. The two set out together but in order to find what they’re searching for, they must first unravel the truth behind a series of brutal vampire attacks from a decade prior.
Now the summary includes a part of the story that’s only revealed later in the story- the fact that a vampire attack from 10 years prior is a crucial part of the story. This effectively turns the summary from sounding slice of life to being more of a mystery drama, which is what I’m going for.
You don’t want your summary to make the game sound like a completely different genre. Decide ahead of time what parts of your story are crucial for people to understand before they play the game.
Some players use tags to determine if a game is for them or not. Steam and itch.io allow for a fair amount of descriptive tags, so be sure to use ones that accurately and specifically match your game.
Tags like “2D” isn’t very helpful as a main tag, but something like “female protagonist” or “war” definitely is.
In fact, some tags can entice players. If you see a tag that looks out of place, doesn’t it make you curious? Why is this tagged “horror” or “tragedy”?
Something that’s harder to pinpoint is how much of your visuals you should spoil. Visuals are the best way to market a game, and you have to show something visual on social media, but you have to save some for the game.
To make matters more intricate, some communities have unspoken rules on how much should be shared. Take, for instance, the otome (girl x boy romance visual novels) community. They have a general “rule” that cut scene artwork that’s not used in promotional material should not be shared online without spoiler tags. This “rule” goes for every website.
However, if you’re marketing a romance game, you’ll want to show romantic images with the love interests. How do you do this?
There’s a few ways to go about it that I’ll list. Don’t try and do them all, but rather decide which ones are better for you.
- Show other cut scene artwork but leave out artwork that includes higher story spoilers* and ending scene artwork
- Commission extra artwork for marketing
- Crop spoiler CGs to only give a hint of what’s happening
*In this case I mean anything plot related to the overall plot. The main character kissing a love interest in a dating sim isn’t exactly a spoiler.
An example of #3 is what I did for Asterism: Time & Space, a free side story for my visual novel Asterism.
As you can see, the thumbnail is a cropped shot of the two characters kissing. This is the ending CG of the game that I cropped. The game was made in a week for a game jam, so this is the only full artwork the game has.
I doubt I have to say this, but don’t spoil the ending(s). This includes ending plot twists, cut scenes, and any last minute character reveals.
Don’t be afraid to give your potential players a taste of what’s to come. You should leave them wanting more, not grasping at straws at what your game is about. Leave them intrigued, not puzzled.
Spoil something to them. Delight their curiosity.
This was a shorter article I finally got around to writing after a few more requests. The first person to suggest this topic was TopHat, so thank you for the idea! I hope I was able to alleviate some fears about spoiling your games and give you some ideas on avoiding it.